Jon Michaelsen's Blog: Ramblings, Excerpts, WIPs, etc.

August 16, 2014

Interviewed by Jon Michaelsen


Michael, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. 

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

Business1I live in Rancho Mirage, California, which is near Palm Springs. Prior to that, I lived for many years in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and prior to that, the Chicago area, where I grew up. I made my permanent move to California nine years ago.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

While home life isn’t generally very newsy, I’m delighted to report that I’m now happily married—because at last it’s legal. My husband, Leon, and I made it official last November. We chose the date, a Tuesday, because it marked what “would have been” our 31st anniversary.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

Having struggled 12 years to find a publisher for my first novel, Rehearsing, I found that accomplishment rather heady back in 1993. Then, having had the good fortune to publish another dozen novels in the 20 years since, that seems like a collective accomplishment worthy of mention as well. Honestly, though, simply being able to self-identify as an “author” or a “novelist”—that still thrills me.

Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels were released, and if so, what forms has it taken?

Never. I don’t know whether to attribute this to dumb luck or to changing social mores, but I have never, at least to my knowledge, been the victim of homophobia. This may seem especially surprising, given that I emerged as a gay writer during the years when I lived in Wisconsin. But the Midwest is not nearly so provincial as many people tend to think.


The three-time Lambda Award nominated Mark Manning mystery series is what fans have come to know you for, starting in 1997 with the release of Flight Dreams. Last year, to the excitement of many fans, the first five novels in the series were released in e-book format. Are you surprised by the series’ endurance after all these years?  

Sure, I’m surprised—and pleasantly, of course. It’s not only gratifying to know that the series “has legs,” but it’s also, for lack of a better word, validating. Writing, by its nature, is such a solitary pursuit, and writers (if I may stereotype) tend to be an insecure breed, having endured a lot of rejection before joining the ranks of the published. There’s always that nagging fear in the background that you just don’t have what it takes, that the story just isn’t good enough. So it’s wonderful and heartening to see the early work finding a new audience—or being discovered again by its original audience.

Can you share why you chose to end the Mark Manning series with the release of the seventh and final novel, Bitch Slap?

I had actually intended to end the series with the sixth installment, Hot Spot, but my publisher wanted more, and I complied. Looking back, I must have felt that this gave me the freedom to be more experimental with the seventh, and in fact Bitch Slap breaks a lot of the conventional mystery rules. To this day, I feel it’s the strongest book in the series and the best written of the bunch. Unfortunately, the title, which was my own bright invention, may have held the book back, and the cover, which was the publisher’s doing, simply fell flat.

Aside from those marketing considerations, I truly felt it was time to end the series because its “bigger story” had been told and was finished. Each installment dealt with a self-contained mystery plot (the whodunit, which I sometimes call the surface plot or the action plot), but the series as a whole also has an overarching “soul plot” that traces Manning’s coming out and evolution as a gay man—his evolution as a person, really. I left him exactly where I wanted him to be.

FlightDreams It’s been about ten years since the release of your last Manning novel. What has kept you so busy all these years?

Good question! And I’m not sure I have a satisfactory answer. The last ten years have been a period of transition and reevaluation for me. I moved from Wisconsin to California. I left my fifties and entered my sixties. I ended my corporate years and began retirement. I went back to school, earned an MFA in creative writing, and have tried to hone my craft and bring it to the next level. I have experimented with both playwriting and screenwriting—including a two-year involvement with an independent film project—and then concluded that script writing is simply not my medium. This has been a valuable lesson that has brought my focus back to fiction. Having scratched those other itches, I now feel securely back on track.

Most important, I don’t feel that the past ten years have been in any sense wasted time, spinning my wheels. Rather, it was a necessary period of self-reflection and redirection that I would hope to characterize not as hibernation, but as growth.

Have you ever considered penning another gay mystery series or revisiting Mark Manning?

The book is closed, so to speak, on Mark Manning; as I mentioned above, I have left him where I want him to be. As for another gay mystery series, that’s not out of the realm of possibility, but I have no current plans to move in that direction. My most recent novel, The MacGuffin, is a stand-alone mystery, not intended as the basis for a series—not gay-centric either. I did invest a bit of work on a possible sequel to that one, but it just wasn’t working. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten really excited about exploring a slightly different direction. (More on this below.)


The MacGuffin is such a departure from your previous mystery series (Mark Manning and Claire Gray). Can you share a little about your influence to move mainstream with your most recent mystery novel?

Although there is a gay presence in The MacGuffin, neither the protagonist nor the narrative viewpoint is gay. Your word “mainstream” is a fair characterization. And while I have always self-identified as a gay writer, I sometimes add the caveat that I’m “a writer who happens to be gay.” In other words, I don’t feel duty-bound to write exclusively to a gay audience or to write exclusively about gay issues or interests. This springs naturally from my philosophical stance that the ultimate victory in the fight for gay rights is assimilation, not ghettoization. It’s a big world out there. We are part of it, and it is part of us.

It used to be that if you walked into a bookstore looking for gay-themed material, it was all shelved together (if they had it at all), away from its mainstream counterparts, as if reserved for a rarefied niche—which perhaps it was. Now, though, if you can find a bookstore, you can probably find gay authors mingled with authors of unspecified sexuality, as if it doesn’t matter—just as it should be.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

I’d love to. Over the last couple of years, I’ve “discovered” the short story, a venerable old medium to which I had previously paid little attention, either as a writer or as a reader. I’ve also become fascinated by an emerging hybrid medium that is variously referred to as “linked short stories” or “a novel in stories.” In such a collection, the individual stories serve a function similar to chapters, except that each story can stand alone, whereas the chapters of a novel cannot. Taken as a whole, however, the collected stories tell a larger story, much like a novel.

MCraft crop

And that’s my current project. I’m at work on such a collection, which will consist of about a dozen stories. There is a linking character who appears in every story, in roles ranging from central to peripheral. On the cusp of his 60th birthday, he is drawn out of the closet—so, yes, I’m wearing my gay-writer hat for this one. Many, but not all, of the stories are narrated through a gay lens.

I find this exciting because the collection allows me to utilize an array of viewpoint characters and narrative choices (third person vs. first; past tense vs. present), and it also allows me to tell the overarching story with a nonlinear timeline. Perhaps the biggest change for me, in terms of technique, is that I am writing largely without an outline, allowing the collection to grow organically as I write it. This has been enormously liberating. What’s more, these stories tend to be more character-driven than my mysteries, which are inherently plot-driven.

I’m hoping to complete the book-length draft by the end of this year. With any luck, it could be published next year. No working title yet. So stay tuned.


On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

And thank you, Jon, for the opportunity to share all these ramblings with your readers.


Find Michael Craft on the web:




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Published on August 16, 2014 05:33 • 25 views

August 2, 2014

Interview by Jon Michaelsen

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

West Hollywood, CA.  I moved here in early 1992 as a renter, scoped out the place, and bought a small house here in late 1993.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

I live with my companion of twenty years, artist and fashion accessories designer Pietro Gamino.  We share our small house and patio with a spirited dog of indeterminate breeds named Jasmine. We live a fairly quiet life on the fringe of the lively cultural and social scene West Hollywood is known for, within walking distance of nearly all our needs.  Many of our neighbors know each other; it’s that kind of neighborhood.  Now and then a friend or group of friends drops in for dinner.  (Pietro cooks; I’m the gardener and general fix-it guy.)  Most of my closest friends, some dating back nearly 60 years to grade school, others from high school and college, are scattered now, but the core of our very tight group lives in Northern California.  We get together for a reunion once a year, sometimes more often, usually for several days.  My basketball and backpacking days are behind me, but I still hike and take long walks, and get to the gym about twice a week.  Most days I write for several hours in my downstairs writing room, sometimes more hours than that, with various projects in the works, all fiction, short and long.  I also spend time with my beloved Aunt Betty, who’s widowed at 89; she lives about half an hour away, out by the beach.  We just set our next outing: the movie Boyhood, followed by burgers.


What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

Coming out as a gay man in 1973 and developing as an activist for LGBT rights, even though I was a drone, not a leader.  The act of coming out, not just privately to friends and family but also publicly, was an essential building block of the LGBT movement, which laid the groundwork for the progress still being forged today.  I’m grateful to have been a small part of it.

Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels were released, and if so, what forms has it taken?

Homophobia is such a big word and means different things to different people, and varies so much in scope and degree, so that’s not an easy question to answer.  I’ve certainly faced the ghettoization of my Benjamin Justice novels, which feature an unapologetically gay protagonist, in many bookstores and other market venues.  That said, without that “gay” label and those “gay” sections, it would have been even more difficult to find my audience, so it’s a two-edged sword.  I’ve experienced a couple of very nasty reviews that reviewed the content more than the writing.  When my first novel, Simple Justice, was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, the anonymous reviewer was openly disdainful, citing a “brutal relationship” in the story between Justice, who was 38, and a teenage boy.  There was a teenage boy in the novel, in jail on a murder charge, but Justice never met him in the course of the story, never even spoke to him.  Then there are publications that ignore you altogether.  My series is set in L.A., won a number of awards, including an Edgar for best first novel from Mystery Writers of America, yet not one of my novels was ever reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, where mystery novels were regularly reviewed back then.  The LAT did run a feature on me and the Justice novels, however.  During the interview, the male reporter, who had just read Justice at Risk, commented on his surprise that Justice was so at ease with and unapologetic about his sexual orientation, “as if it’s no big deal.”  He also said something that astounded me: “You must be the only author who’s writing these gay mysteries.”  He’d never heard of Joseph Hansen, Michael Nava, Katherine V. Forrest, or any other gay or lesbian crime writer.  He thought I was the first one!  This was a staff writer for the L.A. Times!  That alone tells you what the mainstream mindset and environment was like for LGBT writers back then, even though I had a four-book deal with Doubleday, a major publisher, and very respectable advances.  I must add that the mystery reading and writing community was generally very open and fair to me, treating me no differently than other authors, at least not that I experienced, or could see.  I do know that many straight readers, particularly the men, are uncomfortable with the sexual frankness of an occasional scene in my novels, but that’s their right to be sexually uptight, and their problem.  Sadly, the most vicious hate mail I got was from another gay writer – apparently envious of anyone who received more recognition than he did.  I wasn’t the only one he targeted, so I tried not to take it personally.

I am a huge fan of your Benjamin Justice mystery series, with a total of eight novels that feature a disgraced newspaper crime reporter in Los Angeles. Do you recall your inspiration for writing such a flawed, gay and broken character in Simple Justice?


I read a lot of mystery novels as a kid, starting with the Hardy Boys but moving on to a wide range of the genre, from Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle to G.K. Chesteton (the Father Brown stories), Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, et al.  As a kid growing up after my parents’ divorce, with emotional chaos and later criminal abuse when my mother remarried, I loved the reassuring structure, the moral lessons, the unfamiliar worlds that mystery novels took me into, the way the chaos was resolved and a broken world was put back together at the end.  And, of course, I loved the suspense.  But I rarely read crime fiction after I got to college and became engrossed with literary fiction.  Then, in the early 1990s, a friend suggested I read Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress.  I was blown away, not just by the economy and quality of the writing, and the rich characterizations and sense of place, but the way he was able to explore and vent on social issues and social history, in this case from an African-American perspective, within the framework of a compelling whodunit.  It got me to wondering if I might do that with a gay protagonist.  I started noodling a character and possible premise.  Somehow, out of that, came the first novel, Simple Justice, and a series was born.  When I started writing, I had in mind a rather light, fast, commercial crime novel, in the vein of Joseph Hansen but slicker.  But the moment I started writing in the first person, which I’d never done with fiction, the much darker, tougher voice of Benjamin Justice took hold, and I ended up with a much darker, tougher, grittier novel than I’d ever imagined.  I also thought I was writing a fairly straightforward murder mystery, with the colorful West Hollywood setting.  What I learned, when I’d written the last line, was that I was actually writing about surviving grief in the age of AIDS and the need to create your own family if your birth family can’t sustain you.  When I’d discovered what I was really writing about – the theme, the important stuff beneath the surface – it informed my revisions, and helped me write a stronger novel.  It call came the main character.  The plot was certainly nothing to brag about.

The Edgar-winning, three-time Lambda Award winning Benjamin Justice mystery series is what fans have come to know you for, starting with the release of Simple Justice in 1996 and ending with Spider Season in 2008. More recently, Bold Strokes Books has re-released the first four in the series in both e-book and print. Are you surprised with the series’ longevity?

Not really.  The series did get a lot of attention for a while, and I’ve had a very loyal core readership over the years.  The countless emails and other communications I’ve received from readers have been so meaningful and encouraging.  Meeting readers over time has been another great reward.  At one point, when my fifth novel, Blind Eye, came out, it was number one on Amazon’s gay men’s mystery bestseller list for many months, and pulled up three of the earlier titles to fill out all but one of the top five slots.  That was a real revelation to me about how the series has some lasting power.  Blind Eye got some good press, including a featured interview on NPR, because it dealt with the priest abuse crisis just as it was making headlines.  That kind of mainstream attention can really make a difference, but most LGBT writers don’t get that kind of recognition, which is why LGBT literary organizations like the Lambda Literary Foundation are so important, along with blog sites and pages like this one (and especially now that most of the LGBT bookstores are gone).  The Edgar also helped.  I’ve been told that I was the first openly gay author with a gay-themed novel to win an Edgar, so I guess I’m a footnote now.  What is really surprising to me is how passive I am when it comes to business.  I’ve never made the other four novels, the most recent ones, available as reprints or e-books, even though I still get regular inquiries from readers about those titles, six years after the last one appeared.


Can you share why you chose to end the Benjamin Justice series with the release of the eighth and final novel, Spider Season?

I felt I’d gone to the well too many times with that particular character, his raw emotions, his world, the issues that haunted him, etc.  Some authors call it series burnout.  I found myself repeating myself too much.  I was struggling to stay inspired and keep the quality up.  I also wasn’t earning my advances back – meaning I wasn’t selling enough copies to earn back my advances and go into royalties – and I didn’t expect my publisher to renew my contract, which they didn’t.  So I wrote a final novel that I felt wrapped up some things and gave Benjamin Justice a chance to find some peace in his life.  Many years ago, at a reading at A Different Light Books in West Hollywood, a teenage boy came up afterward and told me how important the books were to him, because he’d come from a childhood with a violent, alcoholic father, as Justice did.   “I find him inspiring,” the boy told me, “because he always tries to do the right thing and he always perseveres in the end.  But he has so many problems.  Are you ever going to let him be happy?”  I wrote my final Justice novel for that boy.

My favorite Benjamin Justice novel is Justice at Risk, which (I feel) is one of the most suspenseful, brutal, yet deeply personal Justice novels of the series; What has been readers reaction to the terror Benjamin had to endure, to become the man he is by the last novel?  


Justice at Risk was the third novel in the series, following Revision of Justice, which I consider the weakest of the bunch.  I think I regained my footing with the third one.  I don’t recall too much response either way from readers, though it is one of the darkest and most disturbing of the Justice novels, and deals with some provocative themes.  I do remember that it got some very positive reviews and won a Lammy. It dealt with some very deep issues, inside and outside the gay community, including the notion that a certain class of people with vast wealth live above the law and literally get away with murder.  If it resonated with some readers, it might be because I tapped some very strong personal views and feelings about the world and how it works, especially regarding social justice, and found a story strong enough to support it.

Have you considered revisiting the character of Benjamin Justice in another novel?

Every once in a while the idea pokes me.  But I’m very involved now with writing a standalone, written in the third person, alternating past and present, a hybrid of mystery, suspense and multi-generational drama.  That’s enough right now, along with the occasional short story for an anthology or publication like Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, where I get published now and then.  In college, I wrote my first fiction in the short form, so I’ve kind of come full circle.  But regarding a return of Benjamin Justice, I would never rule anything out.  That’s one great thing about writing: If you’ve got the discipline, patience, passion, and imagination, you can embark on your own creative journeys and adventures, with endless possibilities.

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

I’m flattered to be asked, so thank you, and thanks to anyone who’s tuned in.

Find John Morgan Wilson on the web:

Sorry, no website at this time, and I’m woefully inattentive to my Facebook page, which I probably should close down.  Sorry to anyone who might have tried to reach me through FB in the last year or two. Contacting me through Bold Stroke Books is probably your best bet.



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Published on August 02, 2014 07:46 • 23 views

July 26, 2014


by Alex Morgan

Release date: 9 July 2014

ISBN: 978-1-925180-13-8

Sub-Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Series, Short Story/Novella, Thriller/Horror,

Length: 41,700 words

Formats available: e-book only


After a fetish party at a gay bar in Washington, DC, a young man is murdered and left nailed to a St. Andrew’s cross. Paranormal gay sleuth Corey Shaw thinks someone has passed a divine judgment on him, and may be sending a signal to other gays in the city. The mystery leads him on a trail from a leather bar in the nation’s capital, to Boston, and to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Senate.

Following on from his first mystery Breathless, Corey Shaw returns for more erotically-charged thrills and steamy suspense.



As Corey looked into the room beyond, his breath caught in his throat at the horrific scene just a few feet inside the glass. The young man nailed to the St. Andrew’s cross was naked and blood from a huge gash in his throat drenched the lean muscular body. Nails had been driven through this wrists and feet, which were also bloodied. Corey sickened at the sight of the poor soul.

“We’re calling the night crew to see if they saw or heard anything when they closed,” the detective said when Corey returned to the first floor. “Maybe someone remembers him from last night.”

“I saw him.”

Detective Nash whirled around on him. “You did?”

“For a while,” he answered. “I remember him very well. He was flirting with everyone, including me. Asking for drinks and suggesting that he may reciprocate, if you get my drift.” That memory now seemed to be years ago and the fresh face of the young man was a stark contrast to the ghostly white specter he just saw.

“Not really.”

“Buy him a drink and he may go home with you.” Corey turned to face the detective squarely in the eyes. He understood. This was no mere wallflower. The victim made himself an easy target. If he teased someone and then rejected him, that could provoke a murderous ire in some people.

“Did you buy him a drink?”

Corey glanced at him sharply. That was an inappropriate remark from one law enforcement officer to another. But the detective’s expression showed Corey that he meant no disrespect. Just curiosity. Or was it something else? His earlier question about the Psionic Corps’ interest in the case hinted that he may have misgivings about Corey’s paranormal abilities.

That’s it, Corey thought. Since by his own admission at being at the scene of a crime shortly before it occurred, the detective considered him to be a suspect. He was not offended, because he would be suspicious if the positions were reversed.

“He was so plastered by the time he made it to me, he could barely stand up. I’m not picking up a drunk no matter how cute he is.” Corey spoke matter-of-factly so Nash could get the point. He could tell by the slight change in the detective’s posture and the tone of his voice, Corey thought he did. Even after his stout denial, he didn’t look placated.  “But plenty of other guys did.”

“If he was so drunk, why didn’t you offer to take him home instead of having him drive?” Detective Nash asked in a mean voice.

“I’m not a taxi service, detective. He wasn’t showing any indication he wanted to leave, certainly not unaccompanied. I knew he’d find a ride. In more ways than one.”

“Maybe he did but with the wrong person,” Nash grumbled.

Now he’s shifting his anger and judgment to the victim, Corey thought. “He may not have found someone at all.”

“I doubt if they would’ve closed up if there were still customers in the bar, so he must’ve left with someone, who brought him back here and murdered him.”

“It’s too soon to be jumping to conclusions like that,” Corey said, surprised that Nash made the comment.

“So you think it wasn’t someone here at the Green Lantern?” the detective snapped.

“I’m just saying we can’t limit our search to the guys that were here last night, detective.” Corey responded.

The interrogation of Chauncey was finished and he stood behind the bar as Corey approached. He hurried over, extending his hand. “Hi, I’m Chauncey Avant the manager of the Green Lantern. Did I see you here last night?”

Corey introduced himself and Chauncey’s eyes grew wide in surprise when he heard the Psionic Officer title.

“Do you recognize the victim?”

Chauncey shook his head. “I didn’t see his face.” He shuddered at the recollection. “As soon as I saw…him, I ran out of the room and dialed 911.”

“Remember the skinny twink wearing only red gym shorts and the Celtic knot work tattoo around his right bicep?”

Chauncey searched his memory.  “You mean Aiden?”

“Maybe. He didn’t introduce himself to me. Are there many other guys that come in here dressed like that with that tattoo?” Corey gave him a minute.

“It’s gotta be him then.” The manager choked a little as he lowered his head.

“I take it he was a regular?”

“Almost every weekend.” Chauncey pulled himself together. He wasn’t trembling any more.

“Did you know him well?”

“Not outside of the Green Lantern. I only knew him as Aiden. I’m sure there are plenty of guys that know him better.”

Of that, I have no doubt, Corey mused. “I noticed that he was very popular.” He emphasized the last word with raised eyebrows.

“If you mean ‘slut’, yes. He was always bragging about how many men he slept with,” Chauncey said sneering. “I don’t think he ever brought money with him. He always wore those skimpy shorts that obviously didn’t have a place for his wallet. He could get anyone to pay for his drinks. All he’d do is rub that flat stomach and his crotch up against them and he got what he wanted.”

“Did he ever return the favor? Like he intimated to me?” Corey wasn’t ready to admit he almost fell for Aiden’s game.

Chauncey brushed some imaginary crumbs off the bar. “Yes and no. Aiden liked to tease the older guys, the uglier ones, the ones he thought didn’t have a chance in hell of getting picked up. He’d make them think they could take him home, but usually he went after the young, good-looking guys. The muscular, beefy men. Those were the ones he left with.”

Purchase at Wilde City Press:


Murder at the Green Lantern is the second novel in the Corey Shaw mystery series by Alex Morgan








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Published on July 26, 2014 08:04 • 11 views

July 19, 2014

Interview by Jon Michaelsen

Rafe, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. 

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live on the West side of New York City – right off Times Square.


Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Raised as a Christian Scientist in the San Francisco Bay Area.  My father died when I was young.  My older brother died when I was a little older.  My twin brother and I were pretty rambunctious, imaginative kids.  The entire length and breadth of Berkeley Tilden Park was our playground – and we fully explored ever nook and cranny of that park.  We had eight cats and three dogs.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

What first comes to mind was teaching six years of Meisner Technique of Acting.  The surprising accomplishment was in finding my ability to help others find their truths.  I think my life and my awareness was at its most pristine and expansive, and I always view it as a pinnacle period of my life.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers would like to know; Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

I love improvisation when I write – but first I need the structure of a good skeletal plot to hold it all together.  Once that’s solidified, I can ride the wild ride of spirals within spirals and flumes of improvisation.  But let’s be honest, I’ve only written one novel so I’ve no repeated process at all!

After your books(s) are released featuring MCs who are gay, have you ever had to deal with homophobia and/or bigotry? In what form(s)?

No homophobia in my world, thankfully.  What I have had to deal with is my own heterophobia. I’ve misjudged straight friends as too conservative or straight to appreciate gay subjects, characters, and eroticism.  But what I’ve found is that so many straight folks today are far more open than the ones I grew up with – men and women.  It’s a good lesson to learn.


Your debut novel, “The Next” is best described as a mystery, thriller, yet the suspense is palatable. How does it feel to be getting so much attention for your first novel?

I wrote “The Next” as a process of digging myself out of an emotional hole I was in.  I was going to complete it whether or not it ever got published.  Once I got out of that hole, I felt like I’d woken up from a dream.  I hardly remember having written it.  All the talk and buzz is thrilling, but I feel like I’m in the audience hearing all the applause for someone else on stage.  Another person is in the lights taking a bow.   I hear this commonly the feeling a lot of authors feel.

Readers have gushed about “The Next”, with reviews via Amazon proclaiming; “Best Book I’ve Read this Year!”, “Stunning”, “Deceptively, deliciously complex”, “Dark Addictive Read”…and so on. Even ultra-popular reviewer, Amos Lassen, claimed, “Not only is it a clever plot, it is masterly written”. When did you first have the plot worked out and how long did it take you to write the novel?

Fortunately, the movie Rear Window spelled out the major plot framework.  However, once I decided that my MC was going to be incapacitated by depression rather than a broken leg, it opened up plot developments and flashbacks that informed and intensified the suspense.  This, in turn, personalized the story and energized the writing exponentially.  Thus the flow started gushing and then became a torrent.  I started in January 2013, and finished in June 2013.

The cover says “A gay Rear Window on a caffeine overload”. I’ve heard mentioned more than once, your novel reminds readers of the Alfred Hitchcock directed film from 1954, “Rear Window”, starring James “Jimmy” Stewart; Did the film have any influence on you penning “The Next”?

Aside from a similar plot framework, I mostly turned to Rear Window for comfort.  It’s always been my “sick” film – the movie I pop in when I’ve got a cold or a flu.  For my first novel, I asked myself, “Why not make the writing process a little more enjoyable and easier by referencing something you love?”

The protagonist featured in “The Next” is an agoraphobic in New York City who we never get to know by name, yet his story is told in first-person, so readers get an intensely personal account of what it’s like to be him. Was the MC difficult for you to write? Is any of the MC’s personal struggles and challenges culled from your life experiences or someone you know?    

To be concise:  the MC was easy to write BECAUSE it was culled from so many of my personal life experiences.  To protect my family, I won’t go into detail here.  But I will say that the process of being truthful for this particular novel and the particular evolution of this MC is an integral part of what gives the “The Next” its power, vulnerability, and heart.


Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

I’m writing “Sky on Fire” – a romance that takes place in the world of urban country dancing.  Because this f**cker is also intensely biographical and because I’m the son-of-a-bitch that I am, it will not fall into all the traditional strictures of pure Romance with a capital R.  There’s a lot in this book that readers may never have experienced before – at least not in romances I’ve yet read.

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.


Find Rafe Haze on the web:





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Published on July 19, 2014 06:00 • 8 views

July 11, 2014

Interview by Jon Michaelsen

Haley, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. 

Thank you so much for having me!

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live in the Inland Empire of southern California, not too far from where my protagonist, Skyler Foxe lives. It’s one of the more conservative areas of southern California and to set an LGBT mystery in this region allowed me to poke at some of the right wing attitudes I find so prevalent and so distasteful.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

I am a heterosexual woman married to the love of my life. My son is grown and out of the house and we are happy empty-nesters. My hubby reads everything I write and loves Skyler as much as I do (he’s a very naughty boy). I also write a series of medieval mysteries and you can see that here: I’ve got two cats, a tortoise, and a bevy of bees (yes, we are accidental beekeepers). Hubby and I love to do gourmet cooking, and he is a winemaker and award-winning homebrewer. In fact, we just tore out our water-thirsty front lawn and put in vineyard. There’s a story in the local paper about it here:

I used to have more hobbies—wood carving, painting, building birdhouses—but I don’t really have time for it anymore. We do a lot of camping and love to travel.


What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

My son is pretty great, so he’s quite an accomplishment. Instead of a real job he is working on being a screenwriter and he’s very good. But I can only take so much credit for that. I supposed getting published in two different genres is awesome. (Now I’m working on a third, urban fantasy It took me over a decade to get that contract and it’s still a struggle to keep publishing. But there are all sorts of venues open to authors now and I am a happy hybrid, going traditional as well as self-publishing.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers would like to know; Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

Being a woman of a certain age, I find that I can’t remember things like I used to. If I don’t write it down right away the Muse will leave the building. So I write everything down I can think of. I outline, chapter by chapter, just a paragraph of the main things that need to happen per chapter. And yes, I diverge from it all the time. I also keep a little spiral notebook of each novel where I keep research, notes, bits of dialogue, and scene ideas, as well as using it as a brain storming platform to argue with myself on points of plot. It’s a great tool suggested to me by Sue Grafton. (Yes, I know her. Wish I knew her better!)

After your books(s) are released featuring MCs who are gay, have you ever had to deal with homophobia and/or bigotry? In what forms?

No, but ironically, sometimes I get a little grief from gay men for being a het woman and writing about gay men, as if a woman writer can’t get into the head of, well, anyone not herself. And yet it’s never much of an issue in any other genre. With my mainstream medieval mysteries, my protagonists are also men, but few suggest that I can’t get into their heads. In fact, men enjoy the writing and don’t complain that the characterizations are unrealistic. This can be the subject of a very long interview, but the argument that women have no business writing about LGBT characters is ludicrous. Personally, I don’t judge my reading choices on the gender, race, or sexual orientation of the author. As long as the voices are authentic in the story, there’s no beef.

Readers know you best from your very entertaining, light and fun mystery series known as the Skyler Foxe Mysteries series; Starting in 2010 with the debut novel, “Foxe Tail”. In four short years, the series has amassed a loyal following – did you ever expect the series to become so popular?

I hoped it would. I wanted to write something fun and funny and more light-hearted than a lot of LGBT novels out there. Isn’t there enough angst in our real lives? And because my medieval mysteries are darker and so dense with prose with a lot of time spent on deep research, I just wanted to write something light and entirely different. My gay friends encouraged me, pretty much telling me they wanted something fun with some happy endings. People who have met me always wondered aloud why I didn’t write something funny. Here’s my answer.

I’ve read a couple of the Skyler Foxe series (#2 and #3) and have to say, the plots involving High School English Lit teacher, Skyler Foxe, remind me of reading the Tom Mason (Tom & Scott) mysteries all those years ago by Mark Zubro, a pioneer in the genre. Like Tom Mason, Skyler is a High School teacher who stumbles into sleuthing. However, all similarities end there. How do you feel about being compared to Zubro?

It’s a tremendous compliment! Mark’s been writing these a long time when even mainstream publishers had LGBT imprints. No more! When I began devising Skyler, I was working with kids and teens in my day job and I wanted him to be a teacher, and the only thing I felt I knew well besides history was English Lit, so that’s what he became. I was able to incorporate what I knew then of teen life into the books. My son was also in high school at the time and most of the main plot ideas came right out of what was happening at his school! Really!

Being honest here, after I started writing Skyler, I heard about Mark’s books but I decided not to read them. I didn’t want to be unduly influenced by them or their plots. Any similarity is completely coincidental.

An amateur sleuth series is a tough thing. Why would anyone who isn’t a cop investigate a murder? It’s not logical. But it is a beloved subgenre of mystery and it is up to the writer to find a probable reason for the amateur to do the sleuthing. Perhaps there is a little suspension of disbelief on the behalf of the reader, but if we are all in on it, it can be a fun ride.


If the Skyler Foxe Mysteries series were to become an HBO mini-series, who would you want to play Skyler Foxe? Coach Keith Fletcher?

I would so love that to happen! Heck, I’d even take Starz! And believe it or not, I haven’t got a clue as to who should play them. Any ideas from reader would be great.

With four and a half books published to date in the Skyler Foxe Mysteries series, what does the future hold for Skyler and Keith? Will they ever get married?

I started writing the first book in 2005, but put it aside to concentrate on writing and marketing my medieval mysteries (it being with one of the now Big 5 publishers), but I really wanted to see it published, so I dusted it off, gave it a sprucing up, and got it out there with MLR Press. So technically, the series is still set in 2010. This is before marriage equality in California. But it’s getting difficult keeping track of things in the so recent past, so I am just sort of creeping it up into the present, even though it’s still within the same timeline. It’s fiction. Go with it.

I’m working on the next in the series, DESERT FOXE where Skyler and the gang go to the White Party in Palm Springs and get mixed up in illegal activities in the local Indian reservation. And following that will be a summer vacation novella, FOXE DEN 2, along the lines of FOXE DEN that had no mystery, but was just a bunch of related stories of “DVD extras.” After that, we’ll see. In my mind they get married, but as to whether I will keep writing the series, I don’t know. They are fun to do, but since I might have two other series a year to write, those might have to take precedence.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

In the latest release FOXE FIRE, Skyler Foxe is now out and proud, even though a few months ago he had no intention of being so. But since the cat is now out of the bag, he embraces it as well as his boyfriend, head football coach, Keith Fletcher. But who is that good-looking gay parent hanging around Keith, causing mischief at the school as well as in Skyler’s private life? And then someone from Skyler’s past returns, stirring up trouble. Add to that a firebug and suddenly everyone seems up to no good, especially when a smoldering corpse is found outside of the local gay bar. Skyler can’t help himself and he gets up to his old sleuthing tricks once more.


My WIP, DESERT FOXE, which I hope will get finished in time for a 2014 release, deals with Skyler and the gang going to the annual Palm Springs White Party. But there’re boy troubles of all kinds. One of the SFC might be going solo, Skyler encounters unexpected and unwelcome participants at the party, there’s a murder on the dance floor, and Skyler and Keith are drawn into investigating more than murder in a deep FBI undercover inquiry. How’s that for light and funny?

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

Thanks a whole bunch for having me!


Find Haley Walsh on the web:

And friend her on Facebook at


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Published on July 11, 2014 15:20

June 28, 2014

Interview by Jon Michaelsen

Greg, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. I could literally ask you a ton of questions, having been a fan of your writing for years – but I’ll keep to just ten questions.

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live in the lower Garden District neighborhood of New Orleans.


Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

I generally get up around seven every morning, even on the weekends, and spend the mornings writing, editing, writing my blog, cleaning my kitchen, and answering emails. I have a full time job in addition to writing and editing, and my partner and I have been together for going on nineteen years. Our gym is right around the corner from where we live, and we both workout as frequently as we can. Paul has a very stressful job—he’s the executive director of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, so he has to write grants, raise money, program, etc. etc. etc.—its five days of theater, food and music events in addition to literary master classes and panels and parties. Usually by the time we’ve both finished our days and had dinner we are pretty worn out, so we generally spend what little leisure time we have relaxing in the living room and binge-watching TV series. We just finished watching the third season of Suits, and are also streaming a guilty pleasure—Pretty Little Liars. Paul’s about to go visit his family for a week, and while he’s gone I’ll be watching the original Jonny Quest show, because I am writing an essay about its influence on my writing.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

Maintaining my very shaky hold on sanity.

How did you get started in writing? Getting published?

 I started writing when I was very young; I think I wrote my first Hardy Boys rip-off when I was about eight years old or so. I’ve pretty much written all of my life, whether it was some sort of fiction or simply daily entries in a diary. I kept a diary from age ten till I was in my late thirties; although I started blogging when I was forty-three and that’s a sort of public diary, I suppose.

My first gig getting paid to write was when I lived in Minneapolis in 1996, and I got a job as the sports columnist for a local publication called Lavender Lifestyles, which I believe has morphed into a glossy monthly called simply Lavender now. When I moved to New Orleans later that year, I started writing book reviews and a fitness column for the local gay paper, IMPACT News, which sadly is no longer around. As time passed, I started writing freelance for more publications, adding national ones to the local ones I was already writing for. I sold my first fiction short story, an erotic wrestling story, to an Alyson anthology in 1999; I was trying to find an agent for my first novel at the same time. After having no success with any agents, I pitched the book to my editor at Alyson; it turned out the anthology editor was also the editor-in-chief, and six weeks after I sent it to him, they made an offer and I accepted. That was Murder in the Rue Dauphine; I signed the contract in the fall of 1999 and the book wasn’t actually released until January 2002. It was a very long wait.

I still don’t have an agent to this day.

Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

It depends. I wrote an outline for Murder in the Rue Dauphine and stuck to it religiously. I tried outlining my second novel, Bourbon Street Blues, but it just didn’t work. I eventually realized that Chanse novels had to be outlined because Chanse was a very rigid character; the Scotty books couldn’t be outlined because Scotty was such a free spirit he wouldn’t stick to the outline– so outlining those books was an utter and complete waste of time. As I’ve written more and more books, I tend to have the general idea of what the story is and how I’m going to get there in my head now by the time I sit down to start writing it, so I really don’t feel like I need to outline anymore. I generally now will only sit down and write out a plan for a novel whenever I get stuck, or can’t think of how to continue. Sometimes when I get stuck I go back to the beginning and start revising, and how to get out of the spot I’m in will come to me. I wouldn’t recommend my system to anyone.

I will say that when it comes to the Chanse books, I’ve noticed that rarely, if ever, does the killer change; the Scotty books the plot, story and who the killer is change from day to day as I write them. I always laugh when people tell me that the Scotty books are always full of surprises—because they are for me, too.


Readers most know you from your two longest running mystery, suspense/thriller series; the Chanse MacLeod mysteries (six books) and the Scotty Bradley mystery/thrillers (six books). How are you able to slip into the vastly different characterizations of Chanse and Scotty so easily?

Early in my career I used to say that Chanse and Scotty were opposite sides of the same coin. I’ve always thought that Scotty was the person I would have been had I been raised the way he was; that he was the positive, happy-go-lucky, ‘always expect the best out of everyone’ side of me while Chanse was the other side of my personality; distrustful, kind of dark and pessimistic, always expecting the worst to happen.

I don’t think that’s true anymore, to be honest. Both are fictional constructs with elements of myself in them; but neither one of them is me. I just know them both so well know that it’s very easy to slip into their voices and their heads when I am writing them—and Scotty’s head is a much more pleasant place to be than Chanse’s.

It was very important to me when I started the Scotty series that he be as different from Chanse as possible; otherwise there was no point in writing about him. If they were going to be the same voice, basically the same person, there wasn’t a point in writing two different series.

I wasn’t taken very seriously early in my career—not that I am taken all that seriously now—but I wanted to do something that I didn’t think had been done before; I wanted to write a dark, serious, hardboiled style series and a light, funny one, and alternate between them. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in doing that, but I also don’t go back and reread my books once they are in print. Once the galleys are proofed, I generally don’t read the book again unless I need to verify some continuity—and now that I have e-copies of them, I can just do a word-search for whatever I’m looking for, so I don’t have to try to remember where in the books the little piece I need to review and reread is.

I suppose that you’re asking the question shows that I have somewhat succeeded at making the two characters, and the two series, different from each other. I still worry about that.


Which of your novels/series have fans responded to the most? (My favs are the Chanse MacLeod mysteries);

Early on, I got more response from the Scotty books than the Chanse ones; now I’d say it’s about the same. I always assumed it was because Scotty was so much more fun and more accessible than Chanse; Scotty is the guy you’d want to hang out with. The Scotty books also used to outsell the Chanse books—now Chanse has caught up, and I hear from readers equally. I’m not sure why that is, to be honest.

Within the mystery, suspense/thriller genres, you’ve written several YA novels with gay characters, including my favorite “Sleeping Angel”. What was your inspiration for writing novels aimed at a younger audience? (Full disclosure – I think these novels appeal to all readers, regardless of age!)

Thank you! That’s very kind of you to say, and incredibly nice to hear, because I did intend for them to appeal to adults, too. I always wanted to write books for teen readers, and I consider myself to incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to get them published.  I actually wrote my first three y/a novels (Sorceress, Sleeping Angel, Sara) in the early 1990’s. I wrote first drafts of each and then just stuck them in a drawer. The published versions of Sorceress and Sara didn’t deviate much from the stories I originally wrote; Sleeping Angel was completely overhauled. I don’t think of them as books for teenagers; I think of them as books about teenagers. Initially, I worried about writing for teens and found that I didn’t like what I was writing, and finally decided to focus on telling the story and exploring the characters without worrying about the readers. I leave that to my editor, and I am very fortunate to have a very good one.

I’ve always wanted to step outside the series box and write stand-alones; it just so happens that the first five or so I’ve done (under my own name) have been about teenagers and are marketed/labelled as y/a fiction. (Timothy was called ‘new adult.’) The fun of writing a stand-alone novel is that I don’t have to worry about continuity; it’s a whole new world every time I write one, and I can stretch and try things with them that I can’t do in a series novel. Ironically, they are all kind of linked; the heroine of Sorceress is from the small town in Kansas where Sara is set, and some of the characters in Sara were mentioned in Sorceress. Likewise, the town where Sorceress takes place is the same town where Sleeping Angel is set; some of the minor characters cross over from one book to the other. Mouse in Timothy was from that same region of Kansas, only the county seat rather than the small town in the north part of the county. Scotty in Lake Thirteen is from the same suburb of Chicago that Glenn in Sara was from.

I’m hoping to keep doing the young adult/new adult books. In the most recent Scotty, Baton Rouge Bingo, Frank’s college age gay nephew comes to live with them in New Orleans. It might be fun to give him his own series, or at least his own adventure—and to see Scotty, Frank and the rest of the gang from a new perspective! (Incidentally, Frank’s nephew is from the same small town in Alabama that the protagonist of Dark Tide, my next young adult being released this September, is from. I can’t seem to help connecting all of my books together.)

dark tide

With six books published to date in the Chanse MacLeod mystery series, I’ve read recently that you plan to end the series with the next and final installment; say it isn’t so! Will Chanse finally get to ride off into the sunset with that special man by his side?

Sorry, no spoilers! You’ll just have to read Murder in the Arts District to find out. It’ll be out in October. (Jon-Grrr!)

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

I’m writing a romantic suspense murder mystery called The Orion Mask. It might be coming out after the first of the year; I’m not really sure. I’m very excited about it; I think it’s being called a ‘new adult’ novel because the main character is in his early twenties. It’s my homage to the great women writers I read when I was a teenager: Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, and Victoria Holt. My main character’s father has recently died, and he’s been contacted by his mother’s family, whom he doesn’t know and his father has kept him away from. His mother died when he was very young, and when he comes to visit and get to know his mother’s family, who live on a gorgeous estate just outside of New Orleans, he discovers that his mother’s death wasn’t an accident—she murdered her lover and killed herself. At least, that’s the story…and he begins to realize the ‘accepted’ story isn’t the truth…and there’s still a murderer out there.

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.


Find Greg Herren on the web:

Twitter: scottynola



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Published on June 28, 2014 06:25 • 14 views

June 21, 2014

Interview by Jon Michaelsen

Etienne, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. 

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

In Central Florida about 65 miles North of Orlando


Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Not a lot to tell. After I retired, my partner of almost 19 years (fellow author Antonio) and I moved to the family acreage I’d inherited when my parents died. We live on 10 acres of a much larger parcel, and various family members live nearby. The nearest city of any size is a 40-mile round trip, so we don’t go there a lot. When we’re not at our desks writing, or reading, we’re usually outside working on the landscaping.

Can you share the story behind your pen name, “Etienne”?

Etienne is French for Steven, just as Esteban is Spanish for the same name.

I’ve always loved the name, and although I’ve been ‘out’ to my family for decades, the same isn’t true for my partner, so—

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

Actually getting a publisher to plunk down hard cash for something I wrote.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers would like to know; do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

I have yet to actually ‘plot’ out a storyline. I get an idea, figure out who the characters are, and usually let them take me where they want to go. Which they often do. I always have a pretty good idea as to how the story will end, but getting there is up to the characters.

I understand from reading your bio that you didn’t begin writing until later in life, but since you started, you’ve been very prolific. Have these stories been haunting you all these years?

I started writing in the early eighties, and began posting stories online in the mid-nineties. I finally wrote a story that I wanted to publish (The Path To Forever), and when it was quickly accepted by a publisher, that encouraged me to polish up just about everything I’d ever written.  Which is why so many books of mine came out in 2011 and 2012. Of course, I wrote a couple of new ones each year, as well.


Fans best know your writing from the popular Avondale series, kicking off with the first novel, Bodies Of Work. How would you best describe the novel? A murder-mystery or romantic thriller – or both?

Bodies of Work is a murder mystery, and a love story.  I’ve never considered it to be an actual romance, and it certainly doesn’t fall within the romance formula.

Several novels in series you have written intertwine; how do you keep up with all of the moving parts?

Not easily. Actually, I have a spreadsheet titled “cast of characters”. In that spreadsheet is a list of every character in every book, along with physical descriptions, occupation, and other relevant details. I refer back to it constantly.

One of my favorite series you’ve written happens to be set in my hometown of Atlanta; The Appearances series? It’s obvious in both the Appearances Trilogy and the Avondale series you have extensive knowledge of both Atlanta, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, respectively. How do you go about researching the locales of your mystery/thrillers?

I lived in Avondale from 1975 to 2002, so I know the neighborhood and the city of Jacksonville well. As for Atlanta, I spent a lot of time there in the 70s and 80s. Back in those days, the Metropolitan Opera went on tour, and during opera week in Atlanta, they did seven productions, that is, seven different operas. Six nights and a Saturday matinee. The season ticket holders (myself for example) had to take the Matinee and four other productions. So it was that I spent a week in Atlanta every year. Those weeks ended when the touring ended (1981, I believe).  Which is why so many of the restaurants and other places the characters visit are thinly disguised versions of places that are (sadly) no longer there. IE the Oxford Bookstore; the Pleasant Peasant; and Gene and Gabe’s restaurant.


Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

My latest release was Bottoms Away, which is volume 3 of the trilogy About A Bottoms.  It concludes the story of Chris Bottoms and his partner Mickey.

Before that came Buzz Bets Badly, But Begets Bliss (an Avondale Story)

I’m not good at bragging about my writing, but the links will tell people about the books, and I can add that they’ve both received good reviews.

My work in progress is Purify, which will wrap up the trilogy The Ivory Solution.   BTW, it is a mystery.


On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.


Find Etienne on the web:

Twenty-one of my books are available from Dreamspinner Press:

 The other three are on

Grand Tour


And the aforementioned Buzz Bets Badly, But Begets Bliss.

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Published on June 21, 2014 06:35 • 6 views

June 14, 2014

Mark, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. 

Interviewed by Jon Michaelsen


Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live on Castro Street in San Francisco, one block south of the fictional Arts restaurant and Harvey Milk’s old camera store, now the HRC headquarters.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

I moved into this apartment with my lover Kelly in 1991. We were both bartenders in the Castro and we both had HIV, which was still pretty much a death sentence in those days. We figured we might as well spend what time we had left together. He died of AIDS in 1995 and I’ve stayed here ever since. With the cost of housing soaring, I am grateful for a rent-controlled apartment in the heart of the gay-borhood.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

Surviving AIDS

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers would like to know; Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

I wish I knew. Every book is different. Sometimes I start at the beginning. Sometimes I write the last chapter first. I usually have three or four simultaneous plot-lines in mind and try to alternate and juggle them, chapter by chapter, with them all coming together in the end.

Readers know you best from your wonderfully entertaining “Beach Reading” series, first published in 2008 starting with the debut novel and appropriately titled, “Beach Reading”. Now with seven books in all, did you ever expect the series to be so popular?

No, I just hoped that people would enjoy reading them. They’ve been awfully fun to write.


It’s hard for fans of the series to choose just one or two of their favorite novels from the series because these books are more than a collection of lighthearted, funny, cozy-mysteries – the cast of characters have become family to many, with the ever-loveable Tim Snow and Nick Musgrove, to the fabulous Aunt Ruth, and the gang at Art’s. Do you have a favorite? Which of the novels have fans responded to the most? (My favs would between Russian River Rat & Snowman)

My favorite of the books (so far) would have to be California Dreamers because of all the supernatural stuff. I wrote the first draft of that book during a time when I was taking Sustiva, which causes strange dreams and also on a one-year regimen of Interferon for Hep C, which I cleared. I don’t have a favorite character. I had a real Aunt Ruth, who died very young, so this was my way of imagining her if she had lived longer. Tim is a lot like I was in my 20s and early 30s and he can be really annoying! I guess Nick is more like the man I hoped to become.

The Beach Reading series has been touted as a modern-day “Tales Of The City” – only set in the Castro district of San Francisco, where readers clearly get a sense of your love for the neighborhood, and the city itself. How do you feel about the comparison?

I’m a huge fan of the Tales of the City, having read the earliest books one day at a time when they came out episodically as a column in the newspaper and I consider Armistead a friend, so it is flattering to be compared to him. On the other hand, I don’t want readers’ expectations to be so high that they end up disappointed. One critic nastily remarked that it was like comparing dark French roast to instant decaf. They’re just “beach reading,” after all.

If Beach Reading became an HBO cable series, who would you want to play Tim Snow? Nick Musgrove? Aunt Ruth?

Wouldn’t that be nice!? I don’t know…couldn’t Meryl Streep play them all? She can do anything. It would depend on when this was done. I always pictured JoAnn Castle from the old Lawrence Welk show as Vivacious Vivian in the first two books. Betty White, when she was in her 50s, would have been a perfect Aunt Ruth. Nathan Lane could play Artie, but he’s already done a drag role in the Birdcage. Maggie Smith would be the perfect Amanda Musgrove – or Cloris Leachman. Joseph Gordon-Levitt could play Tim with Alexander Skarsgard as Nick. Or James Franco as one of them. Who knows…?


With seven books published to date in the Beach Reading series, what does the future hold for Timothy Snow and his friends? Will Tim & Nick ever get married and settle down?

Yes, now that gay marriage is legal in California, I am planning to have them get married in book #8, Seersucker, but I don’t know about them settling down too much, unless it’s the end of the series. Tim always has to be conflicted about something or the stories wouldn’t be very interesting.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?


My newest book is a big break from the series, a memoir called “For My Brothers” that was published this year from Wilde City Press. It covers the years when I was a bartender on Castro, Soma and the Haight, the time when AIDS ravaged our community and how some of us survived. Wilde City will also release my pre-AIDS diaries next year, when San Francisco was a young gay man’s paradise. And “Seersucker” in which Tim Snow discovers telekinesis.

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.


Find Mark Abramson on the web:

or friend me on Facebook



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Published on June 14, 2014 05:47 • 1 view

June 7, 2014

AJ, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group. 

Interview conducted by Jon Michaelsen


Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live in that perpetual state of crazy, pretty much a slave to the voices in my head that are sometimes so loud, I can’t sleep unless I get up and write some of their shit down. It’s the land of more ideas than I could possibly write, and it’s a blast (most times).

If that’s not exactly what you meant, the boring answer is in the Midwest.


Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

I recently moved and acquired a house and three pets, two dogs, Kelly and Calypso, and a cat, Biscuit. I prefer to call the cat Bastard, because he likes to joke that he loves me, as if winding around my ankles on the stairs is a hug and cuddles. The dogs are great fun, and other than toxic farts, I’m sure the cat has somehow orchestrated to gas me to death, I’m glad I have them. They keep it interesting, especially Calypso, with her random clumsiness and sweet face. I have a day job, one whose bridges I hope to burn soon-ish so I can write full time and pretend it’s work. (It is hard work, but it’s also the most fun I’ve ever had.)

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

Being *this close* to accomplishing my dream of writing books full time. There are so many talented writers who don’t get the recognition they deserve, who open a vein and bleed on the page, only to get very little exposure. I am well aware how incredibly lucky I’ve been, and for those who have emailed me in support, to tell me they have been moved by my writing, or that I am one of their favorites, I am forever humbly grateful. They are the most rewarding part of this endeavor.


Is the partial face/“blue eye” photo used on your Goodreads, Facebook & Website profiles of you? I’ve seen your fans ask for more – are you planning to reveal all? 

No, the eye has become my brand, and from what I can tell and readers have told me, it’s recognizable on sight. Someone sent me a link to a site that had used the same photo only with green instead of blue, and they were very upset that someone had taken what was “mine.” So as far as I can tell, it’s working. Plus, I was always mesmerized by Sauron.

The truth is, I’m uncomfortable with my face online. As some of my readers know, I suffer from pretty invasive anxiety, and the thought of having that much revealed about me leads me to unhealthy places. I know it’s not what’s typically done, but I’ve had to draw the line, and I’m hoping it’s my books and not what I look like that capture the readers’ imaginations.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers and fellow writers would like to know; Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?

I create a loose outline with major plot points to hit as I go, and try to let the details fill in with inspiration as it strikes. Sometimes, it makes things more difficult, if I write myself into a corner, but the moments when a character surprises me and it fits in a way that I hadn’t even planned, those are the moments I live for, the ones where pure creation makes me giddy and it’s euphoric. It’s a drug I am hopelessly addicted to.

You introduced readers to an incredible and very complex couple of characters with the publication of Power Exchange, which features the brutal murder of a Dom. Detective Gavin DeGrassi is assigned to investigate and psychologist Ben Haverson, a well-known Dom in his own right, is brought in as a consultant on the case, soon introducing Gavin to the BDSM scene. What was your influence to write about a Dom/s pair working on the case to catch a sadistic killer while exploring their own boundaries? Did you set out to write a series with Power Exchange and its sequel, Safeword?   

I was sitting on Theo Fenraven’s couch when he randomly said, “You should write BDSM. You’d be good at it.” I took several psychology classes in college and human behavior and motivation has always fascinated me. Fen’s suggestion was what made me put two and two together. It wasn’t the titillation of restraints and paddles that drew me to the idea; it was the give and take between Dom and sub, which I later learned in my research was called the power exchange. Gavin revealed himself to me first, and I knew, as a closeted cop from a family of cops, that he wouldn’t seek out a reason, or even understand, his submissive tendencies. So I needed a situation where he would learn about the lifestyle and be so captivated by it, and by the man who would become his Dom, that he would be unable to settle for the vanilla life in which he’d been hiding. And within the scope of the mystery, I knew I wanted to highlight the inaccuracies and misconceptions I’d read about BDSM in general. The opportunity to show Ben and Gavin’s relationship in a healthy light in contrast to the danger of misinformation was too good to pass up. To be honest, I thought I could do it all in one book. After Power Exchange was complete, I knew I could have done better, and though I hadn’t planned to write Safeword, it began playing itself out in my head. It was never supposed to be a series, but the inspiration for new avenues to explore keep happening, and I’m just going with it at this point.


Detective Gavin DeGrassi is living with DOM, Ben Haverson when Safeword opens, but struggling to fully submit to Ben. Readers have commented (and I concur having read both novels) about how your extensive knowledge of BDSM goes beyond mere sexual facets, but explores the more intensive emotional elements as well, and how effortlessly you entwined the theme within two very suspenseful and compelling murder mysteries. Can you share how you went about researching your D/s mystery/suspense series?    

Well, as I said above, I’ve had a lot of psychology courses and human behavior fascinates me, so I’ve read body language books, behavioral books, forensic interrogation books… So my natural inclination to starting my BDSM research was to get, you guessed it, BDSM books. I read both fiction and non-fiction, and found the blogs of both Doms and subs, read as many personal experiences as I could find, and spoke with the writers of those blogs for some of the more specific questions I had. For me, it was never about the implements or the physicality of a scene. The true power exchange is mental, and it’s one of the most stimulating things I’ve ever encountered. My goal in writing was to convey that while still painting the visual picture of an intense and committed relationship.

I’ve read before where you explained why you and several fellow writers started Voodoo Lily Press to publish and promote your books? Can you give us the 411 on what motivated you to go the route of indie publishing?

I started out in traditional publishing, and learned through that process all but what actual file conversion and uploading were like. Through many long discussions with my writing partner Theo Fenraven, we determined that between the two of us, we had all the skills necessary to handle the nuts and bolts of publishing. The lure of controlling our content entirely, from words to covers to marketing, was too great to pass up, and we started VLP as an umbrella under which we would both publish. For a short time we had one other writer who later moved on to other writing endeavors. Indie publishing seemed like the way to go because I’m way too much of a perfectionist and it was difficult to sit back and let someone else handle one of my babies. Because Fen and I had all the skills necessary, there was no reason not to.

In recent months, I have resigned from VLP and intend to publish under my own brand, The Grim Writer Press. In this regard, both Fen and I can individually make our work entirely to our liking and not have the transparency issues that go along with pesky things like business and income taxes and other fees. Creatively speaking, indie is the right choice for me.

I was going to ask you if you had another Gavin & Ben novel in you, but happened to catch updates you posted related to your Monster Writing Weekend marathon. Can you share anything about the plot of the third novel in the Power Exchange series?

The plot for this one is darker than the other two combined. Frankly, that this stuff comes from my brain sometimes frightens me.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

My most recent release, Queers, is not a mystery, but I’ve been told it is quite suspenseful. It has an ensemble cast who learn the true meaning of friendship and chosen family, and while sometimes dreams come true, they are not always what we expect when they do. It’s about exploring life after the curveballs and finding a way to persevere against the odds. I like to think it’s an uplifting story, but it’s got dark themes as well, so there’s some intensity to the lessons learned.


On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

Thank you for having me!


Find AJ Rose on the web:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance EBooks, and CreateSpace for book purchases. blog: Facebook: Facebook author page: Tumblr: Twitter: @_AJRose GoodReads:




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Published on June 07, 2014 06:02 • 3 views

May 31, 2014

Interviewed by Jon Michaelsen

Stephen, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.

My pleasure. This is my first interview, so you know, very cool.

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

dark_love_cover_02 320 x 200

As you probably know, writers rarely like to toot their own horns, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment? 

Well, I’m still a fairly “new” writer, but I think what I’m most proud of so far is my first novel Dark Love. It came together pretty quickly while I was working on another book. I finished the first draft in something like 10 weeks, which is blazing fast for me. We got it edited pretty fast and published. I was a little nervous because it is a rather wacky and strange story but the feedback has been great. When people want to know when the next one is coming out, I take that to be a good sign.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Aha, I’m supposed to have a home life? Do they sell those on Amazon? I’m a single guy working two jobs and trying to find time to write. Fortunately my parents and the sibs all live in the Tampa area so I get to spend time with them.

Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines in detail?

I’m a total pantster. Nothing blocks me faster than trying to outline something. I know this sounds silly but for a long time, I’m talking years and years, I didn’t get any writing done because I was always told that you had to start with an outline. A few years ago, I reconnected with a friend from high school, who is also a writer, and she asked me why the hell I hadn’t gotten any writing done. I explained that I always got hung up on the outlines and it never went anywhere. She very patiently explained to me, that it was okay to just make stuff up as I went. I haven’t looked back since. I have thirty years of storytelling to catch up on.

Can you share something about yourself most wouldn’t know?

I’m sure I could, but I don’t know what that would be. You mean like how I don’t like beats? Really, don’t feed me beats. Oh and I have dyslexia, which can make writing a bitch. Thank God for editors and proof readers.

Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels are released, and if so, what forms has it taken?

That’s a really good question. I’d say, no, because I really don’t tell a lot of people I write, let alone what I write. I live and work in the more rural and conservative areas of Tampa and well, they tend to be suspicious of those with book learning and I tend to write about men doing unnatural things with other men, so I’d rather keep the pitchfork action down.


You have published numerous short stories, novellas and novels in several genres, such as gay contemporary, mystery/thriller, paranormal/ghosts and gay romance; Do you have a favorite genre for writing?

No, well other than stories with gay men in them, I don’t think I have a genre. I write what the muse gives me. Back to the pantster thing, I guess, an idea for a story comes to me and I start writing it. For example, “Slay me,” said the dragon. is a fun little urban fantasy story. I didn’t plan on writing an urban fantasy story, I just had this flash of a leather bar, which was really a dragon bar and in walked a twink that was really a dragon slayer. Suddenly the gears started turning and a nice little short story came about.

Okay, maybe I need to re-think my answer. Although I have some broader fantasy and a sci-fi series on the to-be-written list, I think the genre I’ve really settled into is some kind of broad neo-gothic southern thing. One of the hallmarks of southern writing has been setting as character, sometimes the central character. I’m really having fun playing with my Bennett Bay series, using the same setting and many of the same characters for contemporary stories as well as more paranormal and fantasy stories.

“Him” is promoted as a short psychosexual horror story about madness, delusion and murder, and I found it to be that and much more. Few writers choose to delve into the psychotic mind as the main character as you have. Did writing the story freak you out as it did me reading it?   

You have no idea. That is one of my first stories. I did it more as a writing experiment where I wrote something really dark. I really had no idea what I was doing because I do not read that kind of story.

The seed for that story comes from a bit of real life. I went to grad school in the Twin Cities and I used to work in the mental health field, so I know a bit about psychosis. And I’m also very aware of the stigma the mentally ill face, so I’m always trying to be sympathetic when I meet the obliviously ill folk out in the community. So there was this guy on the bus I took that presented as mildly delusional and I said hi to him one day and tried to chat with him a bit. Over the next few days I realized he had started including me in his delusions. I choose to start taking a different bus. (You have to love the mental health care system in this country where we let sick people fend for themselves on the street, but that is a rant for another day.) Anyway, I took that experience and tried to imagine what it would be like to slip into a very dark place. And just to make it more fun, I wrote it in first person, so I really was the crazy guy. I have a whole new respect for writers who write regularly in this genre. I couldn’t do it.


Several of your short stories include ghostly themes. One in particular I greatly enjoyed is “The Demise of Bobby and Clyde”. What was your inspiration for writing this dark ghost story?    

Halloween, I think. I wanted to write a good old fashion ghost story that could tie in with my Bennett Bay location. I of course wanted to give it a fun little gay twist so I have two naked guys exploring an old house. Half the fun was getting them naked in a believable way. Sadly, things don’t end well. There is a follow up story planned. Not sure when I can get to it. Three sisters, who are witches, buy the haunted house and want to turn it into a bed and breakfast. Not a good idea. But things end better in that one, maybe.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

Dark Love is my current release. It started out as my little poke at paranormal romances, you know the whole sparkly vampire thing, but it transformed along the way into something with a bit of depth to it. “Dark love” is a metaphor for gay love, how our love had to be hidden for so long. It’s a story about letting go of the past and finding and forming family. There are no vampires but there are witches, fairies and a guy named Boris.

Return to Cooter Crossing is my current work in progress. I’m about 75% done with the first draft. I really want to release this by the end of summer. It’s contemporary gay fiction with a strong romantic element but also a southern family story. I have genre issues.

After that I need to write a sequel to Dark Love otherwise my fans will hunt me down and do unpleasant things to me.

On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre want to know.

Thanks for doing this Jon. It has been a real honor.

Find Stephen del Mar on the web:



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Published on May 31, 2014 06:12 • 1 view

Ramblings, Excerpts, WIPs, etc.

Jon Michaelsen
I am a writer of fiction in mystery, suspense/thriller, speculative and romance genres whose main characters are gay. While this doesn't define or limit my characters, it does provide excellent opport...more
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